Personal Space Regulation in Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders

Erica Gessaroli, Erica Santelli, Giuseppe di Pellegrino, Francesca Frassinetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People appropriately adjust the distance between themselves and others during social interaction, and they may feel discomfort and move away when another person intrudes on their personal space. In the present study, we investigated personal space in children with persistent difficulties in the domain of social behavior, such as children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and in children with typical development (TD). The stop-distance paradigm was used to derive estimates of interpersonal distance, before and after a brief interaction with an unfamiliar adult confederate. The results showed that ASD children felt comfortable at a greater distance compared to TD children. Moreover, personal space shrunk after interaction with the confederate in TD children, but it failed to do so in ASD children. These findings reveal that autism deeply affects the regulation of personal space, influencing both its size and flexibility.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere74959
JournalPLoS One
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 23 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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